Last week, I traveled to Mozambique with two other members of the LA Associates of Save the Children. If you look at a map of Africa, you’ll find that Mozambique is situated above South Africa on the east coast of the African continent. In order to get there, we had to fly to Atlanta, from Atlanta to Johannesburg (a flight that took over 15 hours) and from there to the capital of Mozambique, Maputo. Unfortunately just before we arrived there was a major explosion in the main power plant and as a result there was no electricity for nearly 3 days! Oh and did I mention it was in the 90s with 90% humidity?
After meeting the staff of the central Mozambique Save the Children office and a tour of the city, we flew to Chimoio where Save the Children has a district office with 45 employees. Together with the government, they develop and run programs in teacher and child education, health, nutrition, child rights and prevention of child trafficking. We drove 50 km to a very isolated rural village where families barely eke out a living farming maize and raising chickens. There was no electricity or public transportation.The roads consisted of sand tracks often washed out by floods.
There had been no school what so ever in this community until 2004. The children and most adults were illiterate. Several years ago, the community got together and constructed a special hut made of sticks in which untrained “volunteers” worked with about 100 children. After several years, the government sent several trained teachers and the population of children able to occasionally go to school grew.
The drop out rate however was high and most girls were not allowed to attend school because they were responsible for obtaining clean water and often had to walk 10 or 15 km to a well to bring the water back home. There was also concern that if they did not have separate latrines from the boys, they would be accosted or trafficked.
Once Save the Children identified the tremendous need in this community, the LA Associates of Save the Children quickly raised the funds to build a school which not only had proper classrooms but also had separate latrines for girls and boys and a well so that parents would allow girls to attend.
There are now 600 children in Mussathua who attend grades 1 through 7 in the 3 sessions held 5 days a week at the school. The number of female students equal that of the boys. They do not dropout.Upon arriving in the village, we were greeted by over 600 cheering children, their parents, teachers and the committees they had formed to supervise the school and their children’s education. And there it was….a functioning 4 room solid walled school, an administration office, 6 latrines and a well. The school rooms had desks, blackboards and books! (I’ve included pictures below for you to see). An inaugural celebration with government officials was held in our honor. The children and mothers danced, acted out stories about the importance of education and the mothers gave a demonstration on nutritious cooking that they had learned through Save the Children.
We went on to see other Save the Children programs the next day including another more established school, a program at a police station to protect women and children from abuse and trafficking and a children’s parliament. After two days, the three of us flew back to Mobuto and from there drove to Kruger Park in South Africa for a brief safari. But the highlight of our trip was the highly emotional experience of seeing what one project envisioned and funded by committed women in LA had accomplished,in an area of the world few of us have seen or think about. We have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of horrifically destitute children. Some of them can now begin to have a future that was heretofore impossible. They will need more… a health clinic, an early education facility, a playground and a building to house teachers (they now live in stick huts). Hopefully now that the basic school is up and running, we and Save the Children can help. How wonderful to be able to do this!
If you want more information or wish to help you can log on to Save the Chilren LA Associates